What business owners can do to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in the workplace. It can take on the form of verbal or physical conduct. While the federal law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, business owners can’t always catch it in time before an incident occurs. When a complaint does arise, it’s important to handle it with care and caution. Many different ways to deal with sexual harassment exist, and the right approach to take depends on the particular situation.
- Before a complaint is filed, make sure you have posted and informed all employees of your organization’s policy relative to sexual harassment. Reinforce that it will not be tolerated; it will be investigated.
- Provide several different ways in which an employee can make a formal charge or complaint. From the manager to the supervisor to a Human Resources officer, ensure employees feel that they can go to a number of different people.
- Talk with the employee who filed the complaint. Guarantee that he or she is safe from retaliation and ensure that he or she knows that you must be informed about any ongoing harassment the employee experiences.
- Ask the employee to tell you the whole story in his or her own words. Listen with care, take notes to thoroughly document the conversation, and always capture important facts like the date, time, and witnesses.
- Interview the person who is accused of sexual harassment. Apply the same listening and respectful approach. Make the best decision that you can with the information you have. Consult with other HR colleagues to do the right thing.
- Consult with an attorney to ensure you’re looking at the whole situation fairly based on the evidence you have. Make sure the attorney supports the direction you’re taking.
- Assure that no further incidents occur by following up and documenting this conversation wisely.
- Adjust working situations fairly where necessary for the comfort and productivity of all.
- Conduct Annual Awareness Meetings to provide notice of non-acceptable behaviors and what an environment of professional respect and decorum is.
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